The Importance of Workplace Investigations for Protecting Employee Rights

workplace investigation detective studying a book of law with a magnifying glass.

Workplace investigations play a crucial role in addressing workplace conflicts. Business leaders need to engage reputable investigators to conduct thorough inquiries, ensuring accountability for wrongdoings and the preservation of a fair working environment. This article underscores the significance of workplace investigations in safeguarding employee rights and maintaining a just workplace.

Workplace Issues That Call for Workplace Investigation

Some workplace issues threaten an organization’s operations, legal compliance, and brand image. For this reason, human resource officials should be vigilant to ensure that all employees adhere to the HR employment laws to avoid breaching other employees’ rights. Some of the workplace problems that need thorough investigations to ensure justice is served within an organization include:

  • Safety and hazardous issues: These mainly involve working conditions that cause workplace injuries and fatalities.
  • Discrimination: This mainly includes physical, emotional, gender, racial, and sexual orientation abuse. Other mistreatments in the workplace are founded on religion and personal beliefs.
  • Workplace violence: This can occur between worker-to-worker, customer-to-worker, or criminal intent. The violence can be classified as verbal, physical, or emotional damage.  
  • Criminal offenses in the workplace: Some of the crimes that undermine employee rights include the embezzlement of funds, money laundering, fraud, theft of personal items, and fraudulent activities in the workplace.  

Examples of Workplace Investigations and Their Results

There are a variety of workplace issues that can call for an investigation, including allegations of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, misconduct, and unsafe work conditions. Employers are often obligated to investigate such complaints and should do so promptly, thoroughly, and impartially. 

Investigations should include interviews with relevant witnesses, a review of evidence, and written reports documenting findings and recommendations. Employers should also have policies in place to encourage reporting and protect employees from retaliation. One common workplace issue that calls for an investigation is an allegation of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

For example, in Phipps v. Bashen, the company’s primary business objective was to conduct discrimination, harassment, and retaliation investigations. In U.S. Equal Emp’t Opportunity Comm’n v. Activision Blizzard, Inc., the court emphasized the importance of establishing internal complaint investigation procedures, including multiple avenues for reporting, prompt and impartial investigations, and training for HR personnel. In Record v. Hannaford Bros., the court stressed the importance of promptly launching a fact-finding investigation when an allegation of harassment or discrimination is brought to management’s attention.

Another common workplace issue that calls for an investigation is an allegation of employee misconduct. In Hamzehzadeh v. St. Charles County, the court discussed an investigation into an employee’s alleged misconduct, as well as the disciplinary process that followed. In Rhine v. Buttigieg, the court discussed an investigation into an employee’s after-hours activities, misuse of government resources, and other misconduct, which ultimately led to the employee’s removal from federal service.

Employers should also be prepared to investigate unsafe work conditions or other health and safety concerns. In Cruz v. Trane Inc., the court discussed the employer’s anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies, as well as the employer’s obligation to investigate complaints.

In all of these cases, the importance of a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation is emphasized. Employers should take care to interview relevant witnesses, review evidence, and document findings and recommendations in a written report.

Crucial Elements that Guarantee Comprehensive Workplace Investigations Employee Rights

A comprehensive workplace investigation in response to HR employment law violations limits the consequences associated with employee misconduct within a company. To promote fairness, clarity, and conclusiveness, the executives and human resource officials must establish a proficient workplace investigation strategy that guarantees justice among the conflicting parties. Some of the elements of a proactive workplace investigation strategy include:

Having An Open, Transparent, and Reactive Complaint Process

All workplace issues start with an employee complaint. Human Resource officials should establish an independent and transparent complaint process that motivates employees to report their issues without fearing retaliation or backlash from high-ranking officials. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission demands employers provide a resourceful harassment-complaint system accessible to all employees. It should also have several avenues for raising complaints.    

Getting Experienced Persons to Investigate Complaints

Employers should hire highly trained, objective, and incorruptible agents to investigate and resolve issues within the company. Additionally, employers should ensure the individuals hired to receive complaints from employees create a favorable atmosphere for employees to open up. The employees should guarantee confidentiality and privacy associated with the complaint reporting process.

Ensuring All Complaints Are Investigated and Addressed Timely

Delaying investigations to a claim within a company creates tension as the complainants feel ignored. There is a high risk that the issue is likely to escalate, leading to massive losses if employers fail to act fast. 

The human resource department should ensure the detectives conduct the investigations within a reasonable time frame and update the plaintiffs periodically to promote transparency.

Temporary Suspension is Advisable to Allow Transparency in the Investigations

Some circumstances call for temporary suspension of the accused employees on full pay to allow investigators to collect evidence. This should only be used as a last resort, especially if the employers note that the accused could tamper with evidence or put the business at risk. The executives should also ensure that potential witnesses are safe for justice to be served.

Consider Hiring a Management Defense Litigation Attorney

Some workplace issues can escalate to lawsuits if unresolved within an organization. An employer should hire a proficient employment attorney to guide them in resolving workplace issues to avoid lawsuits.  If an employer has been sued, they need a highly skilled employer defense attorney to represent them. Warren Law Group is the perfect consultant in such situations, as they help employers navigate federal, state, and local employment laws. Contact us for more information.



Warren Law Group defends individuals and companies in all types of litigation. Our team has decades of experience in all types of litigation, white collar defense, securities litigation, and financial services enforcement proceedings.